“The funny thing about marriage over time is I was very focused on locking it in, and now I just feel locked in,” Sara Juli says in her one-woman show Burnt-Out Wife, which makes its New York premiere February 21-22 and 27-28 at Dixon Place in conjunction with the American Dance Festival. The comedic dance-theater work takes place in a peppy pink bathroom designed by Pamela Moulton, with Juli wearing a range of household costumes (or not much of anything) created by Carol Farrell as she sings, dances, and riffs on relationships while sharing intimate moments and eliciting audience participation. Juli, a Skidmore graduate with degrees in dance and anthropology whose previous shows include The Money Conversation and Tense Vagina: an actual diagnosis, lived in New York for fifteen years before moving in 2014 with her husband and two children to Maine, where she produces the contemporary dance series Maine Moves and runs the fundraising consulting practice Surala Consulting, among other artistic ventures. In preparing for Burnt-Out Wife, Juli and her husband went to marriage counseling, covering as many bases as possible as she explores commitment in deeply personal yet funny ways from a distinctly feminist perspective. The seventy-minute presentation, which involves cake, an original song, and plungers, features dramaturgy by Michelle Mola, sound by Ryan MacDonald, and lighting by David Ferri; tickets are $19 in advance and $23 at the door.
If you haven’t seen Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas perform in New York City, you haven’t been paying attention. She and her company have presented A Love Supreme at New York Live Arts in 2017, Six Brandenburg Concertos at Park Avenue Armory in 2018, and Transfigured Night at Baryshnikov Arts Center in 2019. This week de Keersmaeker and Rosas are performing the North America premiere of Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind / Bach6Cellosuiten (In the Midst of Life / Bach’s Cello Suites) at NYU’s Skirball Center, a series of solos accompanied by master French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, who plays a 1696 cello by Gioffredo Cappa, with de Keersmaeker joining each dancer for a duet.
The two-hour piece, which debuted at the 2017 Ruhrtriennale in Germany in 2017, consists of six Bach sections written between 1717 and 1723 (BWV 1007-1012) — the allemande, courante, sarabande, two minuets, and gigue — created with and danced by Boštjan Antončič, Marie Goudot, Julien Monty, Michaël Pomero, and De Keersmaeker. The stark staging, in which the dancers move across a black space around a seated Queyras, with swirling white chalk marks and green and red tape placed on the light-colored floor, features costumes by An D’Huys, sound by Alban Moraud, and lighting by Luc Schaltin. The title comes from Martin Luther’s version of the Latin antiphon “Media vita in morte sumus”; the Lutheran hymn reads, in part: “In the midst of life / We are in death / Who shall help us in the strife / Lest the Foe confound us? / Thou only, Lord, Thou only!” In addition, Bach wrote a freestanding chorale (BWV 383) based on Luther’s three-stanza liturgy; de Keersmaeker has also discussed how she saw the Luther quote on the tombstone of legendary choreographer Pina Bausch. The February 14 show will be followed by a talk with de Keersmaeker and Queyras, moderated by Center for Ballet and the Arts founder and director Jennifer Homans.
The Theater at Gibney
January 30 - February 1, $15-$20, 8:00
Women in Motion and the Bang Group will present their latest Pop Performance this week at Gibney, consisting of specially commissioned works by female or female-identifying choreographers. Founded in 2000, WIM “offers female artists the opportunity to show work-in-progress in a supportive, intimate setting, intended to create a dialogue between artists and audiences.” The Centaur Show, by the duo asubtout (Katy Pyle and Eleanor Hullihan), is described as a “nouveau New Age fantasy death metal poperetta.” Pyle and Hullihan return to their 2007 original to explore how the world has changed in the last thirteen years. Rebecca Stenn’s The Oak and the Willow is like a painting come to life onstage, a duet danced by Stenn and Quinn Dixon, with live music by Jay Weissman on electric bass. And Same as Sister’s Kallax features a Sámi protagonist at IKEA, with Kristina Hay, Leigh Atwell, Hilary Brown-Istrefi, Briana Brown-Tipley, and Jamie Robinson in a work that examines celebrity and consumer culture. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Internationally acclaimed Russian prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova and the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre will make their US debut February 15-16 at BAM with their lush and lavish production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Rejected by the Kirov and the Bolshoi because of her size, Kolesnikova ultimately made a home — and a family — with the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, eventually marrying founder Konstantin Tachkin, with whom she has two children. They’ve come a long way since he called her a “little red lump in a T-shirt” when she auditioned at the age of ten.
Not to be confused with the St Petersburg Festival Ballet or the St Petersburg State Ballet — the name issue is currently in court — the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre has toured with such classics as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, but their gem is Swan Lake, with two dozen swans and Kolesnikova as Odette/Odile. At BAM, they will be accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of New York, conducted by Timur Gorkovenko. The Vaganova-trained Kolesnikova also has performed the title role in the company’s Her Name Was Carmen, its unique take on the Georges Bizet ballet based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella, with the setting moved to a refugee site, inspired by her 2016 visit to Balkan camps.
Faye Driscoll concludes her seven-year “Thank You for Coming” trilogy with Space, a bold and courageous solo work making its New York City debut at New York Live Arts’ Live Artery winter performance festival this week. In March 2014’s Thank You for Coming: Attendance at Danspace, audience members could be as involved as they wanted to be as five dancers merged into one and Driscoll deconstructed and reconstructed the set as well as the relationship between performer and viewer. In November 2016’s Thank You for Coming: Play at BAM, Driscoll channeled passion, rage, intimacy, and an exhilarating frolicsomeness with five dancers and surprise appearances.
Inspired by the death of her mother, Space is about the physical and metaphysical weight we all carry every day as we attempt to shape our lives in a world that is whirling out of our control. The audience enters a blaringly white space on the stage, sitting in two rows of folding chairs; Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s set evokes a waiting room between life and rebirth, a kind of bardo.
In each corner is a small platform, and various objects lie on the floor or hanging from the rafters, including small, triangular black sandbags, numerous microphones, boots, cinder blocks, and a lemon. Driscoll, a California native based in Brooklyn, enters the room on a warm, unpretentious note, thanking us for taking time out of our busy schedules to get out of bed, put on clothes, and come to the theater to see her. She moves to the center and sends a rusty, soundless bell into motion, circling around us but not quite hitting anyone, then slowing down like a pendulum, as if we are all running out of time. Over the next seventy-five minutes, Driscoll, barefoot, wearing black jeans and a gray T-shirt, records gasps, sighs, and roars into microphones, stomps around in boots connected to speakers, and lifts cinder blocks. She makes specific requests of the audience to perform an array of critical tasks, from raising and lowering objects via a pulley system to holding her hands to maintain her balance; each interaction with animate or inanimate objects results in Driscoll experimenting with new dance movements, merging reality and performance with relentlessly building intensity.
When she throws clumps of clay, it is as if she is demonstrating that we have only so much control over our life and our bodies and might just have to abandon ourselves to chaos. In fact, elements of the piece itself are unpredictable; the night I went, one of the objects got caught in the lighting above, forcing Driscoll (There Is So Much Mad in Me, You’re Me) to improvise, although there is a looseness as well that allowed her to discuss the situation briefly with one of the tech people. (Kudos must go out to sound engineer Zachary Crumrine, sound designer Andrew Gilbert, and text adviser Amanda K. Davidson, who keep us fully immersed and on our toes in the participatory piece.)
“Space confronts what is simultaneously the most certain and uncertain of human states, our undoing and our final flourishing,” Driscoll explains in the program, which also notes that the work was in process during the death of her mother. “It is a reckoning with the fact that one being’s transition from the state of the living calls forth a concurrent transition in those not dead.” Space ultimately transforms into a darkly funny meditation on death in a strange monologue by Driscoll, who is dripping wet with sweat. Her performance is fierce and ferocious, intimate and heart-rending; she holds nothing back, leaving the audience exhilarated and uncomfortable, frightful and concerned, yet oddly victorious. By the time it’s over, she has engaged four of our five senses (only Driscoll gets to taste) while referring not only to the end of life but of the show we’ve just experienced, as well as the trilogy itself. But rebirth awaits; the audience gets up and goes on with their lives, and Driscoll will go on with hers, including bringing Space to the Walker Art Center in March and the Wexner Center in April.
Writer-director Suguru Yamamoto returns to Japan Society after the success of his Hanchu-Yuei collective’s 2017 production of Girl X with The Unknown Dancer in the Neighborhood, a one-man dance-theater piece featuring dancer-choreographer Wataru Kitao. In the ninety-minute show, which is running January 10-14 as part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, the Tokyo-based Yamamoto explores ideas of anonymity, empathy, and death in an abstract urban environment where young people rely on texting to make connections. Kitao, founder of the dance ensemble Baobab, portrays multiple characters of different ages and genders as he moves across a stage with various props, police caution tape, and a back wall onto which text (in Japanese and English), video, and photographs are projected; meanwhile, the lighting shifts from reds, blues, and greens to grays and blacks.
“This is a dance performance and also a play,” the thirty-two-year-old Yamamoto (I Can’t Die without Being Born, Enjoyable Time) says in an Under the Radar promotional video. “The theme is the indifference of people living in a metropolis.” It might have been written about Yamamoto’s experiences in Tokyo, but it should feel right at home here in Gotham, although Yamamoto, who founded Hanchu-Yuei in 2007 and has cited such influences as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Woody Allen, is a bit worried. “I don’t know how such a performance is going to be received by a New York audience, but I hope it will catalyze something interesting.” The January 10 show will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception, while the January 11 show will be followed by an artist Q&A.